Esquina recently unveiled a new look and new menu. They've now included a second floor, which they open up on busier nights. Because it's located away from the kitchen, I assume it's less of an interactive experience than sitting at the bar counter, but perhaps some people may prefer less frenzied, sit down dinner experience.
They've also revamped the menu, with the dishes now divided into Snacks, Soil, Sea, Land and Desserts. They also have some daily specials, but for the time being they're not offering their set lunch.
From the Snacks, we had the pork crackling with salt cod and smoked herring roe, and the dashi poached oysters with onion foam. The pork crackling was good but I'm not sure that it's a sustainable dish. It's so light that it kept billowing in the breeze of the fan, and the couple next to us had one of theirs fly off the plate as they were being served, and had to get a replacement plate. I can just imagine the challenge getting these upstairs from the kitchen to the second floor.
From Soil, we had the heirloom tomato salad with watermelon gazpacho (A is a sucker for anything with gazpacho), smoked anchovy and avocado. It was interesting to see how different the various varieties of tomatoes could taste, though I expected and hoped that the anchovy would be a bit more aggressive.
From Land, we had the ox cheek and tongue with blue cheese gnocchi, fried broccoli and hazelnut and tarragon pesto. I loved the broccoli, which was fried till the florets were nicey browned. The meat was very rich and tender, but got a bit heavy after a while. On the other hand, the pan fried foie gras with little nuggets of smoked eel was fabulous.
We had another meat from the specials board - a duo of lamb with a braised lamb shoulder and seared lamb rack. This was excellent. I liked the differing tastes and textures of the lamb shoulder and the lamb rack. This came with charred green onions and a manchego mashed potato, which had a slightly odd, gummy texture from the cheese.
Finally, from Sea we had baked cod with salt cod, smoked mussel and potato chowder. The texture of the fish itself was a tad dry, possibly overcooked, but the chowder more than made up for it with really intense smokey goodness.
A last minute addition to our order turned out to be one of the best dishes of the night - the flame-grilled sea trout with heirloom carrots, pistachio crumbs and crudo lardo (yes, a literal translation of that is raw fat). Thin slivers of lardo were placed on top of slightly cured trout, then flame grilled with a blow torch. The result was the best possible surf and turf combination.
We were definitely too full for dessert, and as always, we left making a mental note to be back again soon.
OMG so good.